Friday is the first day of the Lunar New Year in 2021, beginning the Year of the Ox, an animal sign believed to be symbolic of hard work and reliability.
The dawning of the new lunar calendar also means this weekend kicks off two weeks of celebration. And, since food is a necessity for proper celebrations, we’ve made a list of places offering takeout — and, in some cases, dine-in — options to start the Lunar New Year with a special meal.
The new shop has claimed the title as “Chicago’s largest Chinese supermarket,” which may arguably be true, though some warehouse stores have opened to the general public during the pandemic. 88 Marketplace will have sales on select items for the Lunar New Year. For those driving, there’s currently plentiful, yet chaotic, parking on the street and in lots across the road. 2105 S. Jefferson St., 312-846-6962, facebook.com/88MarketplaceChicago
Chiu Quon Bakery
The Chiu family makes mini mooncakes year-round at Chiu Quon, the oldest Chinese bakery in Chicago. You can find the fat, flaky, sweet-filled pucks among seasonal Lunar New Year specials, including nian gao, the sticky rice cake best served pan fried until just crisp and chewy. Get dim sum and lucky dumplings too at the main shop in Chinatown. Bao and cakes are also available at the newest location inside 88 Marketplace (see above). 2253 S. Wentworth Ave., 312-808-1818; 2105 S. Jefferson St., 312-547-1119; 1127 W. Argyle St., 773-907-8888; cqbakery.com
The beloved home of steamy house-made soup dumplings, also known as xiaolongbao, has reopened. It’s a perfect companion for a cold-weather celebrations. Hing Kee has outdoor seating immediately in front of the restaurant in Chinatown Square, plus overflow tables at the Chinese zodiac animal plaza nearby. Remember they offer sushi, too, and the most popular item from the cold counter is their dragon roll, said sushi chef Andy Chen. 2140 S. Archer Ave., 312-808-9538, hingkeechinatown.com
A moody new hot pot palace has opened in the strip mall alongside MeetFresh and Hello Jasmine. For the Lunar New Year, the restaurant is offering a family meal for up up to eight people, as well as daily specials through the holiday. Check its Instagram for the full menu. The dramatic LaoJiuMen Hotpot is a franchise of a Toronto-area restaurant by the same name, said owner Vicky Zhang. The highly designed space offers indoor dining, curbside pickup and rare free parking in an adjacent lot. 2026 S. Clark St., 312-291-8295, instagram.com/hotpot9_chicago
An ambitious new noodle house next door to LaoJiuMen, Meet Noodles also has a location in Indianapolis and another to come in Champaign. The modern Meet Noodles hand pulls lamian, from classic wheat to purple yam and even dragon fruit. The huge menu also offers ramen, cumin skewer snacks and colorful bubble teas. 2026 S. Clark St., 312-929-2689, meetnoodleschicago.com
Saint Anna Bakery & Cafe
Saint Anna removed its indoor seating, which was once the daily hangout for elders and school kids alike. They’ll have all the usual favorites, as well as a white turnip cake, available for the Lunar New Year. The bakery is still cash only, and worth every actual penny for its silky egg tarts and flaky mini chicken pot pies. 2158 S. Archer Ave., 312-225-3168
Sun Wah BBQ
The local favorite for Hong Kong-style Chinese barbecue will offer a special hot pot meal called “Flourishing House Full of Gold and Jade,” available through Feb. 24 for the holiday. The dish — which feeds six to eight people — includes fish balls, shell-on shrimp (six), abalone (six), fresh oysters (six), dried scallops (six), black moss, roast duck, boiled chicken, Hong Kong-style roast pork, house-made bacon, black mushrooms, soy bean sprouts, fried soft tofu, daikon radish, tofu pouch all in an abalone sauce. Orders must be placed at least two days in advance. 5039 N Broadway, 773-769-1254, sunwahbbq.com
The only vegetarian and vegan restaurant in the neighborhood has opened in Chinatown Square. The eclectic Veggie House offers an unusual mix of Chinese-American and Chinese-inspired dishes, from salt-and-pepper tofu to pumpkin spinach crab rangoon. They offer seating inside and out, with the latter dog-friendly, and their indoor arrangements have officially reopened (with guidelines) in February. On Friday, guests will also be able to snag a 15-percent discount on online orders with the code “yearoftheOX.” 2109 S. China Place, 312-326-9966, veggiehouseusa.com
A new bubble tea shop has been drawing crowds across from the venerable Lao Sze Chuan, which has added outdoor seating along with BonChon and Mango Mango Dessert next door in Chinatown Square. And, this weekend, Uni Uni will add a second location in Chicago, opening a new location at 1130 W Argyle St. in Uptown. That means a combination grand opening/Lunar New Year celebration, including sales from local vendors onsite, plus live performances from local DJs. Even better, the event includes giveaways, BOGO drink deals and a $1 donation to the Chinese Mutual Aid Association in Chicago. The Instagram listing for the event has all the details, including guidelines for time limits, social distancing and other safety measures related to COVID-19. 2171 S. China Place, 312-539-5253; 1130 W Argyle St., 773-878-3333, uniuni.us